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THE ABC'S OF GOLF e-Marketing @
There are no speed limits on the information highway, but knowing the right on and off-ramps is key to arriving at where you want to go.
T he vocabulary of how we do business has changed. The prefixes " Cyber-", "e-", and "www dot" are forever enshrined as standard phraseology for this generation, the Internet Generation. The Internet offers golf course owners the most amazing marketing opportunities ever seen to increase business and decrease marketing costs, but it's not for the faint of `cyber' heart. Far too many owners have bought into the "build it and they will come" mentality, only to be woefully disappointed with the results. The good news, however, is that Internet Marketing
done correctly, together with a little direct mail, can totally invigorate a golf club's bottom line.
There are three distinct phases of e-marketing that have to be considered when planning an online strategy. Step one is to build a fully functional, user friendly website. The next phase requires that you somehow drive traffic to the site, and then finally, the owner/operator must utilize the data that is collected from the site to drive repeat play and increased customer loyalty
. WHAT MAKES A GREAT WEBSITE? Building a great website is a lot more complicated than simply making it look graphically pleasing. In fact, very often sites which look nice are worthless from a marketing perspective. This is because many
Summer 2003 GOLF BUSINESS CANADA
Photoshop Illustration: Pamela Stewart
ANDREW WOOD MARKETING
web companies are staffed by graphic artists and techies...NOT marketers! There are about thirty key factors that should be considered in designing a website that works. Here are a few of the most important: It loads fast. Really fast - as in 15 seconds or less. That means that all those cute sites with flash shows that require certain software and 30 seconds or more to load are worthless! It collects data. This is the #1 purpose of your website, if you are in business to make a profit. In today's world, whoever has the biggest database wins! The more different ways you can dream up to collect data
from your site, the better off you will be. Shoot for at least five different ways. It is easy to navigate. In short, this simply means you must make the menu easy to find and read. This means it can only go in one of two places: At the top or on the left. Once you have decided where it goes, keep it there! It needs great copy. This, in laymen's terms, means that it needs lots of information. Almost everyone will tell you that you should keep your copy on the web brief. Nothing could be further from the truth! People use the web primarily to seek out more information. Do not shortchange them. Let them decide how much to read! Make your copy interesting, use headlines and sub-heads. Tell the visitor what you want them to do once they have read your information. In other words, do not ignore the basic rules of marketing. If you want to sell, ask for the sale!
amateurs or designers more interested in style than substance! Allow the visitor to interact online. Once people are online, they do not want to pick up the phone, print something out and fax it, or wait until you open in the morning! They want to fill forms in online, book tee times and buy things with their credit card
from your online pro shop, so don't disappoint them. Post surveys, online tee time booking, outing request capabilities, an online pro shop, and contests, among other features. Make your site easy to update. If your website cannot be easily updated by anyone on staff with very limited training, you have two major problem
s. One, your site will soon become outdated and you will not have the power to offer up news, specials and promotions, as you need them. It will also go stale if you don't add new golf tips, jokes and content. Some web Marketing companies
offer a module that automatically adds instructions, golf Book Reviews
and content to your site to give visitors something interesting to come back and read each month. Two, you will incur many extra fees for all the changes and additions that you want made, that only a webmaster or consultant can make. Per hour fees for services like this are not cheap and can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 an hour. Ensure you have the capacity to automatically follow up. The best sites on the web possess built-in auto responders, which allow courses to sys-
tematically follow up on all banquet, outing, real estate
and membership requests. This can be a simple thank you or a far-reaching campaign designed to give `top of the mind' awareness for some time to come. An example could be that your course develops fullcolour e-newsletters to send out regularly to all visitors who register on your site, offering deals, news and self-promotion at every turn. WHAT SHOULD A SITE COST? Many clubs will trade local web designers' or amateur web designers' services for free golf, which sounds appealing, but in reality seldom seems to work out. Contra is always tricky to manage. Regular updates may not get done, the sites won't be updated and new technology
often renders the initial site worthless in 12 months
or less, assuming it was worth anything to begin with. Just because your sister in law can use FrontPage does not make her a web designer! You get what you pay for, so local design firms
will typically build a site for anywhere between $500-$5000 for a basic, low-end electronic brochure, which can escalate to tens of thousands for a more complex site with full database marketing capabilities and advance response systems in place. A company offering to provide ongoing updates and design services will build a site for an up-front fee of anywhere from zero dollars up to around $5000, plus a monthly fee, which also varies and will likely be in the hundreds of dollars range. While at first this monthly fee may seem unattractive, careful consideration of your needs and of how often your site would normally need a full
Take search engine
s rules into account. Search Engines
like Google, MSN and Yahoo bring traffic to your site. Most company websites are designed with a total disregard of basic search engine rules. For example, search engines want to see 150 to 440 words on your home page. If you visit any site that has less - or worse still - has NONE, it is a sure sign you are dealing with
GOLF BUSINESS CANADA Summer 2003
redesign should be considered. A true marketing guru would normally say that continuous upgrading is the smartest approach and pays the best long-term dividends. DRIVING TRAFFIC Once the website is built and has hit the onramp to the information highway, the real work has just begun. This is because, without traffic, your site is simply an electronic billboard on a highway nobody ever drives. The first step to promoting your site is simply to add your URL (Unique Record Locator or Web address in English) in a prominent place to every piece of marketing literature
that you have, including; letterhead, business cards, brochures, print ads, scorecards, bag tags, and in all your print ads. Use your voicemail to direct patrons to your site after hours. Put signs on your carts. Add it to your signage and generally do everything you can to brand it in your players' minds. Cut back on the size and detail of your print ads and focus instead on driving players to your site to register for discounts GOLFMAX Group Benefits PROGRAMME Benefit Plans specifically tailored for Golf Course owners and employees, offered exclusively to NGCOA members through GOLFMAX. These programmes include a basic or enhanced benefit package at competitive prices. The Benefit Plan is available through retirement benefits
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or specials, instead of bigger pictures of your signature hole. Use direct mail promotions or postcards to drive players to your site with specific offers only if they register. Taking it to the next step, buy every single name and address of every golfer within 50 miles of your club, and `mail them' until they register. Use radio the same way. The possibilities are endless to reach as many potential visitors as possible. And finally, make all deals valid only after signing up on the web. Remember; once you have a player's email, all your future marketing to that individual is FREE! SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION Every course wants their club to come up on top in the search engines but in many cases even if you could be #1 in all of them (which you can't) there is simply not enough traffic to make it worth the effort. If your club is in a metro area, then it may make sense to invest in search engine optimization. A Toronto golf site might get searched 500 times a day in season, but a Windsor site might only get 35 `hits' a day and it goes downhill fast for the next town! And remember that this encompasses all search engines throughout the entire world! Before you spend any money on optimization, find out how much traffic comes from any keyword you might want to rank highly in. If the traffic is there, be sure to hire a pro to get you going. Search engine optimization is a specialty service within a specialty field. If the person you are dealing with does not live in a dark room watching re-runs of The X Files, doing nothing but searching for the best in engine optimization - RUN! Expect to pay for the optimization of 15-25 keywords for your site from a search engine pro. Avoid every program that offers to submit your site to all the search engines, as even at $19.95, it's a waste of money. MAXIMIZING THE DATA Now for the fun part...using the data you have collected to make money, drive play and build relationships. First, a word of caution. Many clubs are excited to see their elist grow only to be disappointed as it suddenly starts decreasing. This often happens from over emailing or through not segmenting the data properly. It generally indicates
you may be sending offers too often or that are of no interest to that particular person, who eventually un-subscribes. Twice a month is usually enough with the occasional email offer here and there to your main list. Players that have opted into your special lists can be emailed more often. E-zines or electronic newsletters should be done monthly, in colour, and sent to your entire list to inform and entertain your customers. The content should include tips, news, jokes, product reviews
and special offers. If the content is good it will be read and more importantly it will be forwarded to others (viral marketing
), bringing new players to your site and building your database even further. Some of the leading golf web companies offer an automatic e-zine module that includes your content and creates your monthly newsletter for you. It's certainly a time saving option that's worth looking into. E-blasts should be used judiciously anytime you want to drive extra rounds or encourage more participation at a club event. Use an e-blast to sell last minute tee times or remind members that tonight is "Shrimp Night" at the Club!
Summer 2003 GOLF BUSINESS CANADA
Targeted e-marketing is the ultimate weapon. While most list servers simply dump all the emails collected into a single group, the more sophisticated will allow you to sort your data in any way imaginable. For example, you could create a survey that asks over 30 questions, with a strong promotion encouraging the players to fill the form in. Let's say that 1,723 players completed your survey within a small time frame in return for a free round. Your course, if it was set up to accomplish the task, could then blast an email out to each respondent based upon his or her response to any of the questions. So for example, those people who indicated an interest in junior clinics would be sent one email, while those who buy more than ten golf shirts a year can be sent a different offer targeted to their needs. Better still, these forms can also have auto responders attached to each question, so that when a player indicates that his favorite shirts are NIKE brand, an email can instantly be sent to him showing off the latest NIKE shirts you have in the golf shop. This type of target marketing is truly the future of successful Internet marketing, where instead of being besieged with worthless emails in which customers have no interest, they are instead receiving email that is customized to their personal preferences. Done correctly, your e-marketing strategy
should be the cornerstone of all your marketing activities and will pay for itself ten times over. After all, it is the only element of your marketing plan
that works around the clock, books tee times, answers questions, takes down valuable data about your customers, sells shirts and promotes your club worldwide.
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>> YOUR BUSINESS CADDIE
ANDREW WOOD Andrew Wood is the President of Legendary Marketing, specialists in golf marketing. He publishes a weekly e-zine called Golf Club marketing strategies
which is available for FREE at www. LegendaryMarketing.com, and is the author of numerous books on marketing and golf. He can be reached by email at [email protected]
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